Liverpool’s trio of Edwardian buildings fronting Pier Head – the Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the former Mersey Docks & Harbour Board Building – are collectively known as the “Three Graces”.
The design of Liverpool’s “Fourth Grace” – to occupy Mann Island, the space next to the Pier Head group – brought lengthy controversy.
The initial scheme, for Will Alsop’s design “The Cloud”, described by one journalist as a “diamond knuckleduster”, was eventually dismissed as expensive and impractical: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/nov/21/regeneration.europeancapitalofculture2008, http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/jul/20/europeancityofculture2008.arts and http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2004/jul/24/architecture.communities.
The eventual outcome was the Museum of Liverpool by the architects 3XN and engineers Buro Happold, an altogether quieter building that provides a surprising amount of space for exhibits and offers superb views along the river front.
Here at last are opportunities to savour some of the most significant major exhibits that could rarely if ever be displayed in the limited amount of museum space that was previously available.
The Liverpool & Manchester Railway locomotive Lion, built in 1837, latterly the star of the 1953 film The Titfield Thunderbolt and last steamed in 1989, rests alongside a reproduction stretch of the former Liverpool Overhead Railway viaduct, on which stands the one remaining vehicle from that much-mourned fleet.
Upstairs, the great model of the unbuilt Roman Catholic Cathedral designed between the wars by Sir Edwin Lutyens stands before a panorama showing exactly how this vast structure would have dominated the Liverpool skyline and streetscape.
Perhaps most fascinating of all, in the amount of time it demands, is Ben Johnson’s huge, minutely-detailed painting ‘Liverpool Cityscape’ (2005-8) commissioned for the Liverpool Capital of Culture Year and now permanently displayed at the Museum.
These are the star attractions of a rich, constantly evolving museum that celebrates one of the vibrant cities in the UK: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/things-to-see.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.
The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool’s Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.